The Senate will hold an initial test vote today on eliminating subsidies for Big Oil, essentially a vote on the motion to proceed that, per agreement, will require 60 votes to pass. Apparently that “gentleman’s agreement” where Republicans promise never to filibuster the motion to proceed (this is a “painless filibuster” where the 60-vote threshold is just built into the vote) is all over. The vote should occur around 6:15 pm ET.
Let me save you the trouble of turning on C-SPAN2 and missing the Blue Plate special at the Olympia Diner. The motion will fail on a party-line vote. Even Senate Republicans who previously expressed a willingness to end oil subsidies will stick with Mitch McConnell and Team R on this one.
“I’m going to vote with my party,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during a Senate vote Tuesday afternoon. “I just think oil subsidies have to be part of a bigger package. If you had expanded drilling, I would consider reducing the subsidies or eliminating them if you got more drilling as part of the package.
“I’m leaning against it because it looks like it’s political,” said Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).
Both senators, and several others in the GOP, have publicly opposed the subsidies in recent years. Kirk voted as a member of the House to rescind most of them. But the Democrats have put the issue at the forefront of a broader debate about reducing long-term deficits and debt, to squeeze Republicans who have pledged not to raise taxes in legislation to increase the debt limit.
Jeff Bingaman said this would fail days ago, so no surprise there. For all of the squawking about corporate welfare for Big Oil, Democrats will have only this to show for it: every single Republican will vote to protect the tax giveaways. They already got the same split in the House. That can be somewhat valuable come election time, but nobody really knows where gas prices will be 18 months from now. Meanwhile, the richest companies in the world get to keep their payouts.
And this Congress continues on its track to be the least productive in memory.
Since the newly seated, divided 112th Congress began in January, 13 measures have been signed into law by President Barack Obama. Four of those cut spending and keep the government funded through this fiscal year. A couple of bills named federal courthouses, and the remainder were mostly temporary extensions of existing programs.
“Perhaps after gorging itself in the 111th Congress, the 112th is a time for fasting,” said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
At one point early in the session, more members of the House had left office (Jane Harman and Christopher Lee) than Congress had passed laws. For context, George W. Bush signed 460 bills into law under divided government in 2007-2008. Even under a situation where one party controlled the House and another controlled the Senate in 1985-86, hundreds of bills got signed. But political polarization and a focus on hostage-taking has ground politics to a halt at a time of enormous challenges.
Ceci n’est pas un Congrès.
. . . this bill is actually unconstitutional because it’s a tax bill originating in the Senate. But it’s not going to pass anyway, so that’s a minor point.